“Without tact you can learn nothing.”

- Disraeli

Sardar Akhtar Mengal returned to Pakistan and represented the true sentiments of the Baloch people in the Supreme Court. During his statement, for instance, he alleged that ‘death squads‘ of the intelligence agencies were operating in Balochistan, which were responsible for their alienation.

Though Sardar Mengal received a favourable response from several political parties, some of his assertions were unpalatable and could not be digested easily even by his admirers. He also put forth a six-point charter, which reminded the nation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s infamous six points.

While Sheikh Mujib, for all practical purposes, wanted East Pakistan to secede from the Western side, and there is irrefutable evidence that the Indians too were exploiting him just to fulfil their own ulterior and nefarious motives against Pakistan, it seems that Mengal is not in favour of secession.

But, nevertheless, the mere fact that he has presented the six points is enough to raise many an eyebrow in Pakistan. If, however, he is sincere in his utterances, Mengal will be embraced not only by people, but also institutions that matter in the state.

Also, if the Baloch nationals want to participate in the upcoming general elections, there is no reason why they should not be supported by the mainstream political parties and people.

There’s always the possibility that Baloch nationalist parties may succeed, in spite of their sharp differences, in forming a workable coalition that would be a true representative of the people. If this happens, it would help the country overcome the menace of extremism and allay the fears of those who are engaged in insurgency.

To succeed in his plans, Mengal not only needs the support of the federal and provincial governments and the army, but also powerful Baloch tribes, like Marris and Bugtis. Otherwise, his lone voice of reason, crying out in the wilderness of political correctness, may die down.

The only reaction from Islamabad to his six-point plan came through Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who spoke about reconciliation and the various packages announced by the PPP-led coalition government for the uplift of the Baloch people. At the same time, the Minister has promised to present irrefutable evidence of foreign intervention that is responsible for the unrest in Balochistan.

According to several analysts, Mengal’s comeback was due to the efforts of various institutions in the hope to normalise the situation in Balochistan, while he too wanted the same. Whatever the truth, this is an opportunity that should not be wasted and all reasonable demands put forward by Mengal for the Balochis must be accepted. In case free and fair elections are held in the province, there is no doubt that the present state of affairs will not improve.

Furthermore, despite the fact that Mengal received a warm welcome from the mainstream political leaders, unfortunately, he ignored the reality that innocent Punjabi settlers were being targeted for no reason at all. The least he could do was to reciprocate the feelings expressed by the political leadership for the Baloch people. It would have been better if Mengal, while taking up Balochistan’s issue, should have condemned the killings of the Punjabis as well.

The Sardar should have also given some assurances that in case a representative government is formed in Balochistan, it would initiate measures that would contain the insurgent activities conducted by some tribes with foreign assistance. It must be remembered that in case the armed struggle does not end, it will not be possible for the army and other paramilitary forces to leave the province, since they are charged with protecting Pakistan’s integrity. Therefore, it is expected that Mengal would come out straight on this issue for the betterment of the country in general and Balochistan in particular.

One hopes that the proposal to start the process of negotiations with the Baloch nationalist parties would receive a positive response. Hopefully, this would lead to an accelerated solution that would take care of the genuine demands of the Baloch nationals.

Anyhow, it is going to be the Balochis, who will have to take full responsibility for the post-election period because any meaningful/desired change will not be possible without their help. In addition, it is essential that their will prevails and whatever is the voting pattern, those who are elected must be allowed to run affairs of the province.

Moreover, it is expected that the PPP-led coalition government will not withdraw from the reconciliation process; in fact, it would pump in resources that are required for the development of Balochistan.

To achieve the purpose of reconciliation quickly, it should invest in the fields of education and health, besides the day-to-day dispensation of justice in order to end insurgency and bring Balochistan at par with other.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com